Families urge legal changes to prevent more police killings

Artist Dennis Owes, 31, from Ghana gives the last touch to his portrait of George Floyd during a rally on Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Brooklyn borough of New York. George Floyd, whose May 25, 2020 death in Minneapolis was captured on video, plead for air as he was pinned under the knee of former officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder and manslaughter in April 2021. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Artist Dennis Owes, 31, from Ghana gives the last touch to his portrait of George Floyd during a rally on Sunday, May 23, 2021, in Brooklyn borough of New York. George Floyd, whose May 25, 2020 death in Minneapolis was captured on video, plead for air as he was pinned under the knee of former officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder and manslaughter in April 2021. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

MINNEAPOLIS – Parents and siblings of Black men killed by police urged people during a discussion in the city where George Floyd was killed a year ago to join them in pursuing legal changes they say can make similar deaths less likely in the future.

The panel, convened Monday in Minneapolis and organized by the George Floyd Memorial Foundation founded by Floyd’s sister Bridgett and moderated by prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson, was part of a series of events marking the one-year anniversary of Floyd’s death on May 25.

Family members of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Daunte Wright and other Black men slain by police gathered for a discussion about the state of policing in the U.S. and racial inequities in the frequency of fatal encounters with law enforcement.

The families also discussed the role of lawmakers in making changes to hold police accountable and how community members can support the loved ones of those killed by police.

“You don’t have to actually lose a child in order for you to have that passion,” said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. “We need allies, we need people to support us and lift us up when we’ve fallen down and when you all have fallen down we need to lift you all up.”

Gwen Carr, Garner's mother, described her meetings and conversations with lawmakers over six years to get legislation passed that bans the use of chokeholds, among other measures, after an officer used the technique in the death of her son. One instance involved Carr and other mothers in New York bringing makeshift coffins to the state Capitol in 2015 after failed attempts to meet with Gov. Andrew Cuomo in person.

“I don't believe in writing letters. I don't believe in phone calls. I do like to get right up in their face... I tell them what my demands are — not my asks, but my demands,” she said.

Several states moved to prohibit or severely limit the use of chokeholds and neck restraints after Floyd's death last year. At least 17 states, including Minnesota, have enacted legislation to ban or restrict the practice, according to data provided to The Associated Press by the National Conference of State Legislatures.